Back to Spend?

While Staples declared July 14 the "first bell" of the Back to School (BTS) shopping season, the reality is that BTS doesn't typically begin until August and, this year, might come a lot later. A PointRoll study reported by MediaPost's Center for Media Research provides compelling evidence that BTS activity extends well into September, based on web data collected during the 2009 BTS season.

With consumers nervous about the recession in 2009, households delayed purchases in hopes of discounts from desperate retailers. Will 2010 repeat the cycle, or will the BTS season of 2010 be the breakout event that lifts the gloom?

According to data released in July by the National Retail Federation, the nearly 40 million high school and college students will represent over $55 billion in BTS spending this year, an 11% increase over 2009.

Our recently released ethnographic examination of what high school and college students carry in their backpacks indicates that school supplies for high school students average $230.41 while college students average $354.40. In addition to pens, paper, books and such, apparel accounts for a significant portion of BTS spend. Apparel retailers are particularly aggressive in their efforts to bring BTS 2010 spend in their direction.



A case in point is the New Look, New Year, Who Knew! campaign announced by JC Penney. Penney is pulling out all of the stops with a campaign designed to attract the BTS spending of digital-natives. Its ambitious attempt to capture a disproportionate portion of the economic recovery represents a bold move on the part of Penney.

The Crush Your Style campaign launched by Sears has deployed a social media contest, enlisting a Kardashian sister (Kylie Jenner) as the key celebrity endorsement.

Not to be outdone, Macy's is banking on Madonna's daughter Lourdes' new Material Girl line as well as a savvy partnership with Xbox 360's new Kinetic motion-sensing platform to lure both genders into stores.

While the big brands jockey for BTS dollars, a Wall Street Journal article, "Gloomy School Season Looms for Small Retailers," has proclaimed the small retailer as the biggest loser. How can a small retailer compete with a Kardashian sister and Madonna's daughter?

Both bubbles and recessions are largely psychological. We'd all find our sails filling with wind if this year's BTS manages to bring a skittish economy back to life. In the meantime, if you're angling for BTS dollars, keep your powder dry and don't assume that it's all over by Labor Day.

1 comment about "Back to Spend? ".
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  1. Kathy Sharpe from Resonate Networks, August 13, 2010 at 1:04 p.m.

    Last year it was Christmas in July. This isn't early. This is saving ad dollars for the 4th Quarter.

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